Stephen King Calls 'Em As He Sees 'Em


There's been a lot of hoopla on the 'net over reports that in an upcoming interview for USA Weekend, Stephen King spoke his mind (gasp!) to writer Lorrie Lynch in her "Who's News" celeb column. And by speaking his mind, I mean saying that he thinks certain popular writers, chief among them Stephanie Meyer of Twilight fame and James Patterson are lousy writers. Very popular, but crummy in the craft department.

So which popular authors does King think are terrific? Jodi Piccoult was mentioned, along with J.K. Rowling, and King feels Dean Koontz "can write like hell. And then sometimes he’s just awful. It varies."

A lot of people on the 'net are frothing at the mouth that Mr. Stephen has broken some sort of unwritten "code of silence," where authors don't indulge in public put-downs of other authors. What do I think about this interview and the resulting controversy?

I think it's great because it gets people talking about authors, writing quality, and storytelling. If folks are arguing the merits of their favorite writer, they're probably also reading and forming opinions of their own. Huzzah!

As for my personal opinions, let me just say there are authors who are craftspersons, author who are what I call "natural storytellers" (not necessarily great writers but still suck readers right in), and a small minority who combine the best of both worlds. And then there are authors who (at least with some efforts) strike out on both counts. As for who's who and which type or individual is your favorite, I'll leave that to you to sort out, as long as you're actually reading books and not simply parroting someone else's opinion. :) And as for my personal takes on each of these authors, I'll tell you -- but only in a one-on-one conversation over margaritas. (Warning: By the time I hit bottom on the first margarita, I won't actually recall the names of any other authors.)

For now, however, let me pose a couple of questions. First, do you think King was right to publicly criticize other bestselling authors? Also, to your way of thinking, which authors are outstanding at consistently combining great writing skills with page-turning storytelling? Some of my favorites (Harlan Coben is one example) work in this exciting intersection, and I'm always eager to find more.

Comments

Suzan Harden said…
So what time are we meeting in Margaritaville?

King actually works as a professional critique and pop culture commentator, as well as his novel writing gig, so the comments were well within his realm. What I find funny is no one's upset about him dissing Patterson.
I'd forgotten that about King. Good reminder, and for my money he has an excellent eye for talent. I've read and enjoyed several promising new authors on his say-so of late.

Maybe no one's upset about the Patterson comments because of the types of audience. Patterson's been around for a long time and has a solid base that loves his clipped, page-turning style. Meyer's work has a much younger fan base, many of whom have embraced Twilight in a faddish way, because their friends love it. I'm not saying a lot of her fans don't legitimately love her work, just that there's almost a frenzied intensity to a good portion of them.
Dorothy Hagan said…
I believe Stephen King has earned the right to say anything he wants. I have never cared for his genre, but have the utmost respect for him as a creator. That said, I don't know that his comments are that profound. My teenage daughter devoured the Twilight books, which led her to read Anne Rice, which led her to comment, "Wow, Mom. Stephanie Meyers is kinda light-weight."

My personal favorites are early Susan Howatch (The Wheel of Fortune compelled you to keep reading)and I'd say middle John Irving (A Prayer for Owen Meany and Hotel New Hampshire takes you places you just have to go).

And you are spot on, Colleen, observing that having this conversation at all is a great thing.

Here's to readin' and writin'...
Joni Rodgers said…
What Suzan said.

My only problem with him pooing on Twilight girl is that those are YA books, not (in theory) intended for an adult audience. So it's fair to compare them to the Harry Potter books (if one embraces the idea that comparisons are ever a good idea) but not to his own books or Patterson's or War and Peace. The irony is, her books are probably the gateway drug that will hook a lot of readers on King's stuff next. (He's not exactly writing War and Peace either.)

As for Patterson, it's hard to take that as a personal smack down when Patterson has franchised his name to the point that insulting James Patterson is like insulting Nabisco. Or Joan Rivers' face. You're not talking about about an organic creation of nature anymore, it's a corporate entity.

Also ironic: I enjoy King's columns, literary comments, and nonfiction more than I enjoy his books. I do think he's a brilliant guy and a great writer. He's earned his Junior Jesus Lennon Elvis on Velvet Icon badge. But doesn't that mean he can afford to be charitable? Even if I had a fraction of the clout he has, I'd do like Mama said. ("If you can't say something nice...") It's a free country, but for my taste, I wish he'd stick with using his super powers for good, to lift up the writers he esteems, not crush the little pill bugs he thinks are unworthy.

You'll notice we don't burn books on Boxing the Octo, literally or figuratively. We talk about books we like and quietly trash the others over coffee at the Black Walnut.
Thanks for the comments.

I loooved Prayer for Owen Meany, too, Dorothy. And Garp, of course. And Joni, I liked what you said about Meyer serving as a gateway drug for the next generation of readers. Thank heaven for her and Rowling and all the other wonderful YA authors bursting on the scene now. Here's hoping that young people will discover the unplugged joy in reading and stick with it.

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